Thursday, May 3, 2007

JC and the Jazz Hoppers: Chillin' at Home

Jazz Hop
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 5.3.07
Buy CD: Chillin' at Home

If you haven't heard about this trio, it's because (1) they're from Australia; and (2) this is their first CD. 

It has been awhile since a group was put together around a Hammond B-3 organ; the last one I remember was Joey DeFrancesco. Of course, they were preceded by Jack McDuff and Jimmy McGriff, not to mention the many pianists — including Fats Waller — who played around with the instrument. 

The B-3 is one of the two primary instruments in the Jazz Hopper trio; the other is a guitar. Jason Campbell (JC) is the guitarist; Col Nolan plays the B-3; and Andrew Dickeson is the primary drummer. (Evan Mannell play drums on one track.) This is a relatively short album: only seven tracks, including a second take of "Our Delight," a Tad Dameron bopper from way back. 

Two of the tunes are written by Campbell ("Fresh Roast" and "Aria 4 Daria"); the rest are arrangements of familiar songs that were made popular by other artists, such as Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and Nora Jones' "Don't Know Why." 

This is a surprisingly pleasing listen. The combination of guitar and organ isn't new, but neither is it common. 

One of Campbell's major influences was guitarist George Benson who, for several years, played in a group with McDuff. JC loved that sound, and one of the admitted highlights of his life occurred when he had an opportunity to jam with Benson. That event was key to the formation of the Jazz Hoppers. 

Campbell plays a lot of guitar. You can hear the influence of both Benson and Wes Montgomery in his work, and that's a compliment. 

Nolan's organ is a genuine contribution. He isn't as frenetic as DeFrancesco and, as a result, blends beautifully with Campbell's guitar during the ensemble passages, while providing a tasty background for JC's solos. Nolan also is a talented soloist on his instrument. 

Both drummers contribute a driving beat. 

This is an interesting group, and it should have a bright future.

No comments: